« VorigeDoorgaan »
CHAP. not to them. Ready to sell their skill to the highest bidder, they are transferred without care and reflection from master to master, and from mill to mill. To their ever-growing numbers the religious provision of the Church has proved utterly inadequate, and in some cases their want of spiritual food has been supplied by the rankest poison. Through the kind exertions of agitators they have sometimes been made to read just enough to see objections against all religion and all government, and not enough to see those objections triumphantly refuted. God forbid that this description should apply to all! But does it not apply to more than a few? And is such a state of things free from grievous misery? Is it free from appalling danger?
The South Sea Scheme, and the consequent exasperation throughout the country, seemed to render a Dissolution of Parliament a most perilous venture, and yet its septennial period was near at hand. Hence was suggested a remedy far worse than the danger-an idea of obtaining another special prolongation of the term; and it is said that of the King's chief advisers, this idea was opposed by Sunderland, but advised by Walpole. This is reported by Mr. St. John Brodrick*, nephew to Lord Midleton, who had just, as he tells us, carried his election at Beralston through Walpole's in
To Lord Midleton, June 10. 1721. Lord Orrery repeats a report to just the contrary effect, Oct. 28. 1721. See Appendix.
fluence, and was not therefore likely to misrepre- CHAP. sent his opinions; yet it seems difficult to believe that so cool and cautious a statesman could have supported this violent and unconstitutional scheme. Be this as it may, the scheme, if ever entertained, was soon relinquished; the Parliament met again for a very short and unimportant Session, in the winter of 1721, and was dissolved in the March following. The country was then restored to quiet, and the new elections, like the last, gave a large and overwhelming majority to the party in power.
In less than three weeks after the elections, on the 19th of April, died the Earl of Sunderland, so suddenly that poison was rumoured, but his body being opened the surgeons discovered a disease in the heart. His character I have elsewhere endeavoured to portray, and it only remains for me to touch upon a charge connected with the last year of his life. He is suspected by a contemporary of having "entered into such correspondence and designs "as would have been fatal to himself or to the "public"t-in plain words, intrigues with the Pretender. Certain it is that at the time the Jacobites had strong hopes of gaining him; but their most secret correspondence, so far as I have seen it, in the Stuart Papers, does not go beyond hopes, rumours,
* See the medical certificate in Boyer's Polit. State, vol. xxiii. p. 453.
† Tindal's Hist. vol. vii. p. 450.
CHAP. and loose expressions *: and finally, when Mr. XI. Lockhart, a leader of their party in Scotland, dis1722. tinctly applied to James, at the eve of the new elections, to know how far their support should be given to any friend of Sunderland, the Chevalier answers, January 31. 1722, " It is very true that "Sunderland has to some people made of late
a show of wishing me well; but I have never "heard directly from him myself, and have been "far from having any particular proof of his sincerity." This, in fact, appears the upshot of the whole affair; and it is far from improbable that the overtures of Sunderland may have been to win over some leading Tories to his party, and not to attach himself to theirs. The hopes of his support were, perhaps, just as groundless as when Atterbury, four years afterwards, drew up an elaborate argument to prove that Walpole intended to restore the Stuarts whenever George the First should die! +
But further still, there seems great reason to believe that however Sunderland may have tampered with the Jacobites for the object of obtaining their support, he did not take a single step without the knowledge and approval of his sovereign. After his death the Regent of France, speaking to
* James to Mr. Menzies, July 20. 1721. Lord Orrery to James, October 28. 1721. See Appendix.
+ Lockhart's Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 74.
See this paper in Coxe's Walpole, vol. ii. p. 226.
the English minister at Paris, expressed his sus- CHAP. picion that Sunderland had intrigued with the Pretender's party, and stated some facts in corroboration of the charge. This was accordingly communicated to Lord Carteret as Secretary of State; but Carteret's answer was as follows:"A thousand thanks for your private letter, which "affords me the means of obviating any calumny
against the memory of a person who will be
always dear to me. I have shown it to the King, "who is entirely satisfied with it."*
Lord Sunderland, as I have stated, died on the 19th of April. The father very speedily followed the son-in-law; and England lost one of her noblest worthies in John, Duke of Marlborough. A paralytic attack in 1716 had impaired his commanding mind, and he expired on the 16th of June in this year. His achievements do not fall within my limits, and his character seems rather to belong to the historians of another period. Let them endeavour to delineate his vast and various abilities—that genius which saw humbled before it the proudest Mareschals of France--that serenity of temper which enabled him patiently to bear, and bearing to overcome all the obstinacy of the Dutch Deputies, all the slowness of the German Generals
* Sir Luke Schaub to Lord Carteret, June 1. 1722. Lord Carteret's answer, June 21. 1722. Coxe's Collections, vol. lii. This volume contains several other proofs to the same effect; but the one I have given above seems decisive.
CHAP. those powers of combination so provident of failure, and so careful of details that it might almost be said of him that before he gave any battle he had already won it! Let them describe him great in council as in arms, not always righteous in his ends, but ever mighty in his means!
The Duke left his widow in possession of enormous wealth, insomuch that she was able in some degree to control the public loans and affect the rate of interest. This wealth-or, as they declared, her personal charms even at the mature age of sixtytwo-soon attracted several suitors around her, especially the Duke of Somerset and Lord Coningsby. Their letters are still preserved at Blenheim. Coningsby writes like a man bewildered with the most passionate love:-"To my dearest, dearest Lady Marlborough alone I could open the inmost
thoughts of my loaded heart, and by her exalted "wisdom find relief!...... Whither to go or how "to dispose of a life entirely devoted to you, I "know not till I receive your orders and com"mands..... I live in hopes that the great and
glorious Creator of the world, who does and "must direct all things, will direct you to make "me the happiest man upon the face of the earth, " and enable me to make my dearest, dearest Lady Marlborough, as she is the wisest and best, the
• Robert Walpole to Lord Townshend, August 30. 1723. See also Coxe's Life of Marlborough, vol. vi. p. 387.